Photo courtesy of Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez, a 30 year-old formerly undocumented immigrant from Mexico, is among the first “DREAM Act kids” to get a work permit in the U.S. Martinez is a beneficiary of Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows people under 31 who entered the U.S illegally to avoid deportation, so long as they arrived before they were 16 years of age. Obama ordered the stoppage of deportations of these young people after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act, which would open pathways to legal residence for illegal immigrants.

Of the more than 82,000 undocumented immigrants who have applied for deferred action, which allows them to remain in the country for two years without fear of deportation, just 29 have been processed and granted. Those immigrants who are deferred are eligible for work permits, also valid for two years. Applications opened August 15 and are expected to take several months to process, so naturally, Martinez was surprised with how quickly he received his deferment and work permit.

Martinez arrived in the U.S. when he was 9 years old. He and his family crossed the border legally with temporary border-crossing cards, but then remained in the U.S. illegally. He graduated high school with nearly a 4.00 average, and then went on to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering from the University of Arizona. But up until now, he’s not been able to put his degrees to use since he could not legally work in the U.S., even though he had several job offers. Instead, he has done lawn care work. With the new work permit, he can now apply for jobs as a computer software engineer.

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Martinez is an example of the millions of DREAM Act kids who, as President Obama has said, “think of themselves as Americans and who are illegal through no fault of their own and who are ready to give back to our country and go the school and fight in our military.”

It’s fitting that one of the first DREAM Act kids to benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program hails from Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer has made so many efforts to infringe on the civil rights of Hispanics, both undocumented and legal residents. Under Arizona law, a work permit qualifies as proof of legal residence, but Brewer has vowed to refuse any state benefits, such as driver’s licenses and in-state tuition rates, to recipients of the Deferred Action work permits. As Brewer continues to fight Obama and any aspects of the DREAM Act, pro-immigrants groups will likely challenge her efforts in court.

During an open forum in Miami University broadcasted by spanish-language TV network, Univision, Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, repeatedly avoided responding directly to questions on the deferred action plan. Mr. Romney avoided saying whether the Arizona immigration laws were a model for the rest of the country; however, he did state that he liked the employment verification part of the Arizona law, and he would work to incorporate that into a federal plan for immigration reform. He did state that if a person was awarded an advanced degree he would “staple a green card to their diploma.” Mr. Romney has also repeatedly said that if he were to be elected president, he would veto the DREAM Act. Mr. Romney called the deferred action plan a temporary solution; however, he has proposed similar measures to the DREAM Act, such as allowing illegal immigrants to become permanent residents after serving honorably in the military.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers information for those wishing to apply for the Deferred Action program.

For more about Carlos Martinez, see AZCentral.com.